Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

April 11, 2013

Movie Review: The Sweeney (2012, DVD)

Review By: Rob Sibley

“The Sweeney” is Nick Love's re-imagining of the classic 1975 British TV series. Love had a tough task on his hands, the original Sweeney TV show was immensely popular back in the day and has built up a huge cult following. Fans of the series scoffed when they first heard that Nick Love was developing it for a film adaptation. Were they justified? Did Nick Love do the show justice and still be able to put his own spin on it? The answer to those questions is a mixed bag.

Now I got to say before I discuss the film I was a huge fan of the original TV series. My Dad is a big fan of British television and he was the one who first exposed me to classic shows like The Avengers, Fawlty Towers, vintage Doctor Who, The Prisoner and The Sweeney. The original Sweeney TV series was probably the most gritty cop show around till “The Shield” showed up. Each episode had that gritty urban decay vibe that the original “Get Carter” had. The film wasn't afraid to show violence, language and have coppers doing things that aren’t necessarily legal but things that needed to be done. The show also relied heavily on the chemistry of it's leads who brought a blue collar worker quality to their roles which made them easy to relate to.

So how does Nick Love's Sweeney stack up to the beloved original show? British tough guy and all around pro Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast, Nil by Mouth) stars as tough as nails detective inspector Jack Regan. Jack is a member of the “Flying Squad” a special division of the police which acts as a rapid response unit that deals strictly with serious violent crimes. Ben Drew (AKA rapper Plan-B) plays Jack's protege George Carter. Things get complicated when a jewel heist goes down and a civilian is killed. So Jack goes around breaking in some heads to get some information on who's responsible which leads him to his nemesis of sorts Francis Allen (Paul Anderson). Francis is also involved in some dealings with some Serbian criminals.

To make matters more complicated and convoluted for Jack, he is being watched by internal affairs agent Ivan Lewis (Steven Mackintosh). It also just so happens that Jack's sleeping with Mr. I.A.'s wife and fellow Sweeney Nancy Lewis (Hayley Atwell). The relationship comes across as a bid odd and forced since she's a good thirty years younger. 

Nick Love spent a good six years developing the project so it's his baby. Nick's a rather controversial director in the UK. Mainly because of his four collaborations with actor Danny Dyer. Dyer & Love seem to both be love them or hate them people in the UK. But I've always been fond of Love's work. Having made the definitive football hooligan film “The Football Factory” and making some very solid crime films The Business & the Sean Bean vehicle “Outlaw”. The only time Love ever really messed up in my book is when he decided to remake the classic Alan Clarke film “The Firm”. That's a discussion for another time though.

The Sweeney sadly despite being such a passion project for Love is rather dull. It's your typical Cockney cops and robbers thrillers that's lacking in the thrills department. The film features a huge shoot out in Trafalgar Square. The scene echoes the famous botched bank robbery shootout from Michael Mann's Heat but it lacks all the excitement. Clip after clip of ammunition was spent as the Sweeney fire at the robbers and the robbers fire back. For some reason not a single person took a bullet in the scene. It felt like I was watching Edgar Wrights Hot Fuzz or a bad episode of the A-team.

The film does feature a somewhat exciting car chase near the end. But it comes to late and can't make up for a lackluster action thriller. The screenplay was incredibly cliché and by the books and the characters were pretty much 1 dimensional archetypes which we've seen in better movies. Even the direction itself is kind of drab. Instead of going the gritty route Love shot the film in an ultra modern way. The film has a very sleek & polished chrome look to it. We also get one to many birds eye view helicopter shots of London. Someone's been watching a lot of Michael Mann films...

Ray Winstone is always fun to watch but his tough guy act is getting a bit tired by this point. Damien Lewis of “Homeland” fame is completely wasted as Jack's by the books boss. Surprisingly Ben Drew isn't actually half bad in the film. He's nothing special though as he's pretty much is playing his character from the excellent Michael Caine flick “Harry Brown” except this time instead of wearing a hoodie he's got a badge. The true stand out performance comes from Paul Anderson who relishes his scenes. Anderson is a highly underrated British actor. He does the best he can with the tired screenplay and injects some much needed life into it. I urge you to see out the outstanding Brit revenge film “Piggy” to see what the man is truly capable of. He was also extremely effective in Julian Gilbey's “A lonely place to die”. Skip this clunker and check out those two films instead, you can thank me later.

“The Sweeney” is brought to us by E-One entertainment and it looks fantastic on DVD. The 2.40:1, 16X9 enhanced transfer looks very sharp indeed. The clarity and detail of the image is pristine.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is equally up to snuff, no complaints here.

The extras is where the disk truly shines and they actually make up for a lackluster film. Things start off with a bag with the audio commentary. Featuring Nick Love and two of the films producers who for some reason never introduce themselves. Any fan of Love's knows that the man can spin an excellent commentary track. He's as lively as ever and very excited to be discussing the film. The commentary is actually more interesting then the film itself. Plenty of behind the scenes factoids are pointed out. Especially interesting that both Tom Hardy & Michael Fassbender auditioned for the role of George Carter. This was early on in the six year development stage and before they got their serious fame in the US. Also of interest is how Winstone came on board, initially he was going to do a gangster film with Nick Love which would have teamed up Ray with Danny Dyer! That would have been a treat, but the project kind of fell apart and Love decided to pursue development on The Sweeney.

Next up are a series of featurettes. “Behind the Scenes of The Sweeney” is an above average 25 minute EPK making of. You can expect interviews with pretty much the entire cast and crew. Everyone is very lively and happy with the project so it's a fun watch. 

"Preparing The Sweeney" is a fifteen minute look at the long development process the picture went through. "Shooting in Trafalgar Square" is exactly what it sounds like. "The New Regan and Carter"  has Ray Winstone, Ben Drew and Nick Love discussing the two characters. 

“On The Shooting Range” is about 4 minutes and features the cast visiting a gun range and familiarizing themselves with some firearms. Next up is a fun little extra “Top Gear and the Caravan Park”. Which features a 8 minute clip from the excellent Brit show Top Gear. Showing Nick Love filming and orchestrating one of the films final (and most exciting) set pieces. Lastly you get some animated storyboards. 

The Sweeney isn't a bad film it's just a huge disappointment to fans of Nick Love, Ray Winstone and the original classic TV show. Even with a pretty stellar cast the film can't overcome it's been there, done that screenplay. But it's worth a look if your a diehard Winstone or Love fan. RENT IT.

No comments:

Post a Comment